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Finding Compassion in Matthew

Chapter 8 - The Leper Comes to Jesus

Matthew 8 – Observations

  • The leper comes to Jesus: "If you are willing you can make me clean." He put a really high regard on Jesus as he not only risked his life to come to him. But he also worshiped him and gave him credit to do something that not even the priest could do - make him clean.
  • Most of the stories in this chapter deal with healing based on faith but the one that stands out for me is the centurion. He was not a Jew, yet he believed that Jesus had power so that he could speak a word and his will be done. It's also interesting that the centurion said that he was not worthy. There are lots of explanations by various commentators but I see shades of Peter in this story (Luke 5:8).

The story of the leper who came to Jesus is one of those high points in scripture. What that man must have risked to break societal norms is nothing short of amazing. Let’s imagine what may have happened:

According to the law, the leper was to live on the outskirts of the city and the priest was to go visit him ever so often to see if he had been cured (Leviticus 13:45-46, 14:3) of his disease. The leper was to continually cry “Unclean! Unclean!”

This would have been to warn the unsuspecting of his leprous state and it would also have been a constant reminder to the leper of his condition. The leper would have been isolated from society with only a few visits from the priest to have contact with a human being.

How did he find food? Was he allowed to glean in the fields of the landowners? More than likely he would have had to find sustenance in the wilderness. Can you imagine the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ time going to visit such a man?  Chances are that man had been alone since the day he was diagnosed until the day he challenged his societal rules.

Now, let’s go deep: if leprosy is taken as a metaphor of sin, then the cry of “Unclean! Unclean!” must have been a constant reminder that he had fallen out of the grace of God.

His isolation would have been a reminder that sin separates mankind from God. How fitting then that it was only with the coming of the Messiah that this unclean man was able to be brave enough to take a chance of being freed from his horrible sickness. In a similar manner we are to recognize our sinful state and come to Jesus crying, "I'm unclean!".

Photo taken by Dominic C

I love it that this man came and worshiped Jesus. Somehow eve in his isolation he had heard enough about the man called Jesus to recognize him as the son of God. Now notice he didn’t touch Jesus, he didn’t even ask to be healed. His words were:  

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean (Matthew 8:2).”

This leper recognized that it was up to God to change his life. He could not be freed from the disease without the active will of God. He longed to be free of the “Unclean” label. Now notice what Jesus did:

Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 

Jesus must have sensed the man’s isolation and his desire for human contact. He could easily have healed the leper with a word but no, he reached out and touched him. That single touch must have changed his life even before he heard the words “I am willing.”

Jesus has the same compassion for you and me today. He longs to touch us and make us clean, all he asks is that we come to him and lay our burdens at his feet. Are you willing to come before Jesus and worship him?

Prayer:

Father in heaven, thank you for the cross. Thank you for the price that was paid for all mankind so that I can come before and worship you. Cleanse me from my sins today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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